Ford’s Global Think Tank

September 30th, 2015

Excerpt from Motor Matters:

Ford: A Global Think Tank

“Looking Further With Ford” is the automaker’s yearly trends conference, which explores global micro-trends.
Sheryl Connelly, manager global consumer trends and futuring for Ford Motor Company, addresses changes across the globe and demographics with issues that confront everyone, from Gen Y (millennial), Gen X, and Baby Boomers, to the new Gen Z.
Connelly notes “New forms of mobility and collaborative platforms are emerging every day. At Ford, we are always mindful of the blueprint for sustainability, and the need to push the change as much as to adapt to it. You’ll see that in the products that Ford introduces.”
I have known Sheryl over the years and consider her a major force in the automotive industry. She is sharp, energetic, fashion forward, fun, and open minded. Sheryl is a motivator for change. I conducted the following interview.

Holly Reich: How do you source your micro-trends? Do you travel around the world, use the Internet for ideas, or source through Pinterest, Houzz, etc.?

Sheryl Connelly: Although the micro-trend book is published on an annual basis, each edition is built on over a decade of Ford’s trend research, which focuses on consumer values, attitudes, and behaviors. As we develop new trends, we draw upon this historical foundation, and then vet the concepts with thought leaders, academics, and subject-matter experts from around the world.


Women and Hot Cars

August 4th, 2015

The Heels & Wheels 2015 Event: Women Driving Hot New Cars

heels & wheels

Women drive the conversation at Heels & Wheels.

In May of this year, a group of women influencers in the automotive market met at the Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village, California. We were there for Heels & Wheels, a yearly event that brings female representatives from major auto manufacturers and journalists together.

The test drives took place in the Santa Monica area- a sunny venue to try out winding mountain roads, crowded highways and city streets. In other words, real-life driving.

2015 Heels & Wheels

Here are some of my major takeaways:

New Car Buying:  Women vs. Men by

  • Women take longer to purchase than men: 75 days versus 63 days
  • Women feel less knowledgeable (41% vs. 64%) and less confident than men (38% vs. 59%)
  • Women research more. They spend 10.4 min more on research vs. 3.8 mins for men
  • Women shop for features; men shop for brands
  • Two times more women are undecided, 2 out of 5 men know what car they want

How did you pick which car to bring?

GM: The Regal GS is a great “best foot forward” car for Buick and really illustrates what the brand stands for. It’s graceful and elegant on the outside, beautiful and comfortable on the inside, it has great technology throughout, and it’s really fun to drive.

heels & wheels

Jaguar Land Rover: The vehicles JLR provided were a 2015 Discovery Sport HSE and a Jaguar F-TYPE Convertible. We choose to send the F-Type because the route the ladies took went through the LA mountains to Malibu and made a fun drive in a convertible!

Mazda: We chose the 2016 Mazda6 for this event because of its relevance to the women that attended, as well as their target audience. The Mazda6 is an affordable mid-sized vehicle – offering an innovative interior design, with all the latest safety technology, and an enhanced exterior design.  It has functionality, ride comfort, and quietness – features that are important to most women when making a purchasing decision. Most importantly, it is fun-to-drive, and H&W is for female journalists for whom driving matters.

heels & wheels

Nissan: Murano has a lot to offer—unique style, advanced technology and a suite of safety and convenience features that make the daily commute more enjoyable. The all-new Murano, we like to say has an extra set of eyes with its four cameras and three radar sensors.  Nissan Murano has a lower in-step height and wider door opening, making it easier to get in/out of the vehicle and to secure infants and toddlers in their car seats. We also lowered the height of the instrument panel, shortening that “seat-to-screen” distance. That, combined with the larger screen and less audio and navigation switches, makes for a more user-friendly (and driver-friendly) experience.

Mitsubishi: We are focusing… on the  Outlander Sport.  It has a design that stands out and a size that appeals to women, so it’s a natural fit.

VW: The all-new Golf SportWagen blends sedan-like driving dynamics and fuel economy with crossover-style cargo capacity, making it an ideal choice for modern families. Having this model available for female auto journalists and bloggers to share with their audiences helps Volkswagen spread the word that the wagon truly is back.

heels & wheels

What information from the event should women know?

Mazda: The purchasing research that compared women’s buying habits versus men’s buying habits (KBB) was very relevant and interesting from an automaker’s perspective.

Mitsubishi: Women are a demographic that we do keep in mind… because they influence so many car purchases. In that sense, events like these are necessary for the brand.

VW: I was impressed by the wide variety of outlet types. There were not only women writing for female and family-oriented blogs, but also for go-to industry research sites and buff books. Women often make the car-buying decisions in their households and the more they can read about cars from writers with a similar perspective, the better.

Do you think that we need more women in the automotive business and why?

GM:Absolutely! The best way for automakers to understand and serve their female customers is to have women working in every aspect of the business. From my own experience at GM, I’ve felt welcomed from day one. My contributions are appreciated and opinions are valued – and the work is fun, challenging, and fulfilling.

Mazda:· It’s great to have many more women in the automotive industry. It provides a unique perspective to an industry where a lot of women ultimately have a significant influence on the final purchasing decision. Women – and even men – are very welcoming to women in the industry. Even across manufacturers, I feel like the women form a bond that helps us do our jobs better, and gives our companies critical insight, rather than just stepping on each other’s feet.

Nissan: I think having more females in the automotive industry would be a fabulous thing. What I appreciate about the environment at Nissan is that we as a company truly value diversity and believe that it ultimately helps us as we develop new vehicles and outreach strategy.

Mitsubishi: I would love more women in the automotive business. I particularly think that there would be a benefit to more women in dealerships to make the search and purchasing process better, but also…as engineers and product planners. I will say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the event… the women were all so welcoming, very judgment free.

VW: We need more women in the auto industry. Women can inform product and marketing decisions in new ways that will result in more well-rounded and well-received vehicles for everyone.

Heels & Wheels

The vehicles we tested. Prices as driven:

Glamping Mercedes-Benz style

August 4th, 2015

Mercedes-Benz Rocks A Glam Van Camp in Colorado

Mercedes-Benz Vans Camp

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans take versatility to new heights with customizable interiors, 4WD and an affordable new mid-sized Metris.

And who would have figured this van could have so many possibilities, or work for so many different types of drivers? But the Sprinter is just that: Perfect for outfitting as a work van (think mobile cupcake shop, blow-out bar on wheels or delivery truck), a van for vacationing (with a four wheel drive option and a size that can accommodate beds and a bathroom) or in the case of the mid-sized Metris, a family van that seats up to 8.

I got to see all this and more when I was among a group of journalists invited to Mercedes-Benz Van Camp at Dunton Hot Springs, a 5-star ranch at 8600 feet in the mountains of southwest Colorado. The resort, a mining camp in the late 1800’s, went through several iterations, including being abandoned and reborn as a dude ranch that closed in 1990. At its peak, the town had 260 to 300 people living as residents.

In 1994, a family bought Dunton and set about renovating the entire town, which took seven years. Today, the town can be rented for up to 44 people. And that’s just what Mercedes-Benz did. We stayed in hand-hewn log cabins decorated with antiques, brass bathtubs, and lambskin rugs. Dunton Hot Springs is open all year-round and the price of admission to this glam camp gives you deluxe accommodations, a spa, screening room, hot springs, all manner of activities and all meals. The farm to table food includes fruit and vegetable from Dunton’s gardens, local lamb and wine from their winery.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Camp

We were there to test the new mid-sized Sprinter van, the Metris. We also were able to drive a variety of Sprinter vans including R/Vs, the new 4×4, and the super single (single-wheel heavy duty alternative to the 3,500 dually, or double-wheel per axle, version).

Our drive took us from the Durango airport on highways and gravel roads to Dunton and up winding, narrow, mountain passes to Telluride at 8,750 feet. We switched out everything from cargo vans to the Metris to Sprinter R/Vs to test out their comfort level. Seriously, it was not the place I wanted to try out a BIG vehicle but, true to their word, the Sprinters held strong- sturdy and easy to maneuver.

Mercedes Benz Van Camp

“The U.S. is finally coming around to Eurostyle vans,” noted Bernie Glaser, Vice President and Managing Director of Daimler Vans USA, LLC. Eurostyle vans with their unibody construction (versus body on frame), translates to a narrower, taller, design than traditional vans. The overall plus is that this configuration maximizes cargo area.

“The van division for Mercedes-Benz is a $1 billion dollar revenue company. Business is up 19.6% since May; we are outperforming the large van market. The U.S. is our second major market behind Germany,” remarked Glaser.

To accommodate that need, Mercedes-Benz established a separate Vans division in the U.S. for its commercial customers. Sprinter sales are growing so much that the company just invested $500 million in a new plant in Charleston, South Carolina, to produce the second generation of Sprinters. With 276 Sprinter dealers in the U.S., Mercedes-Benz is planning to grow that market with their newest mid-sized van, the Metris.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Camp

The new slogan for Mercedes-Benz Vans division (Sprinter and Metris) –“Vans. Born to Run” – speaks volumes about where the company is going.

Bottom line, the Sprinter can be morphed into anything from a food truck to a luxury motor home, executive coach, dump truck or refrigerated van.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Camp

The Sprinter also has off-road bragging rights with 4 x 4 four-wheel-drive versions that are new to the U.S. The 4 x 4 took 1st place in the crossover division for the 2015 Rallye des Gazelles in the Sahara Desert. The Rallye is one of the toughest all-female sporting events in the world.

The 4 x 4 option is new to the full-sized van market. To wit, Sportsmobile West out of Fresno, California, started in 1961 with VW Camper van conversions, has started outfitting the 4 x 4 Sprinter for the Overlanding and Adventure RV traveler.

Besides the 4 x 4 variant coming to the fleet, the midsize Metris is coming to the U.S. this fall. (The Metris already had a starring role in Jurassic World.)

Mercedes-Benz Vans U.S.A.

Mercedes-Benz Vans Camp

The van seats up to eight with “garage-ability,” meaning it will fit in most garages, making the Metris is good news for small businesses or large families. Mercedes-Benz predicts that Metris sales in the U.S. will be 50% passenger and 50% cargo.

With a starting price of $28,950, the Metris has a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The vehicle comes with rear-wheel drive; four-wheel drive is a future possibility.

A recent report from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) cited that 97,775 vans were registered in the first three months of 2015, up 22.3% from a year earlier. The rise in vans was credited to a jolt of online buying. In May, 2015, an article in WardsAuto by Tom Beaman stated that sales in the small commercial van market are up 58% from 2014. Mercedes-Benz is introducing the Metris at a crucial time.

Why you’ll want to stay at the Wynn, Las Vegas

July 15th, 2015

The Wynn Las Vegas and Rolls-Royce. A stunning match of design and class.

See here


What’s Up with Tony Bennett and Ed Welburn?

May 13th, 2015


On SheBuysCars

Ed Welburn, Chief of Design at GM discusses automotive future with students at NYC high school by way of Tony Bennett’s foundation, Exploring the Arts.

Apps Apps Apps…

April 18th, 2015

Some apps to make your drive easier

It’s a new wagon for VW

April 18th, 2015

VW Golf Sportwagen

Did you know that Ram’s Chief Engineer is a Woman?

April 8th, 2015

UnderhoodKrear with Nick Cappa, Ram Media Relations

Meet Elizabeth Krear:
Ram Truck’s Chief Engineer

Chief Engineer of the Ram 1500, Elizabeth Krear is someone you’d want to have as a friend. I interviewed Elizabeth — a perky, petite, fun, and intelligent woman — during the Texas Truck Rodeo.

As a woman I sometimes find it difficult to interview male engineers: They don’t get my sense of humor and they talk in engineering terms that are way above my head. Not so with Elizabeth: We bonded right away over kids, kitchens, and our mutual love of trucks.
Elizabeth oversees all budgets, planning, engineering, development, quality, and launch management of the Ram 1500. With more than 25 years in the automotive industry, she received two Master’s degrees while working full-time and raising two kids with her husband, Tad.
Following are excerpts from my interview with the engineer:
Holly Reich: Whenever I see a Ram, I think, “If the Ram were a man, who would he be?” It’s such a deliciously macho truck.
Elizabeth Krear: Haha! The Ram is so many things, no one man could cut it.


What you need to know about Morocco

March 30th, 2015

All-women race thru Sahara Desert Rallye Aiche De Gazelles



Top Ten from Geneva Auto Show

March 14th, 2015

Top 10 Car Launches - Geneva Motor Show 2015Read this! The top 10 luxury cars from Geneva Auto Show